Now that you have an idea of how a two-way radio or walkie-talkie works, and you also know the various aspects you need to look into when buying one, here are our full reviews and rating of some of the most popular handheld best two-way radios at the top of selections in the market today.
In coming up with these top options, we considered all the elements mentioned above, as well as our own observation in using the handheld radios so that we can give you a true representation of what the units are and the kind of experience you can expect from using what you will choose and buy. We also included some factors to search for before buying radios. Read on to find out more about our rating for these two-way radios.
Best Two-Way Radio Reviews of 2020
1. Motorola MS350R FRS/ GMRS Radio
Motorola is a huge and popular name in the digital telecoms industry. Motorola is one of the best manufacturers of reliable mobile radio phones and now, even digital walkie-talkies or two-way radios, which includes Motorola Talkabout T400 Walkie Talkie. The Motorola MS350R is one of the best FRS and GMRS radios you will see these days. This Motorola gadget promises a solid functioning in most of the applications (like the Motorola Talkabout model), and it is also lightweight and small in size so that you won’t have to be bothered by extra weight. One of the remarkable features you will love about this Motorola model is its range, which is a whopping 35 miles. It also has 22 channels and 121 privacy codes for more channel combinations for you to use. If you want to use a versatile handheld two-way radio, then you will find pleasure in owning and using this set by Motorola (Hint: they are available on Amazon).
- This radio is lightweight, handy and durable
- It is waterproof and weatherproof, so you can use it outdoors
- Comes in an attractive design
- Features an effective antenna and belt clip
- Has removable batteries and you can install NiMH rechargeable battery pack
- Get 22 channels (simplex), 8 repeater duplex channels, GMRS channels, and 121 privacy codes
- Monitor button checks if a channel is in use by others, and detects weak signals for max range
- Though this FRS and GMRS unit has a 35-mile range, this will vary from place to place.
2. Midland GXT1000VP4 FRS / GMRS Radio
Midland radios won’t be missing, of course. This Midland radio is another dependable and quality handheld FRS GMRS you can consider, especially if you need an adaptable device for your adventures. It is a heavy-duty two way radio that is two-way, designed with program features to enable it to run in the toughest and most severe of conditions. With a long-range of 36 mile radius, this best two-way radio is going to suffice the needs of the majority. But of course, that range applies to areas with no obstructions.
It uses both FRS (Family Radio Service) band and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) band with the ability to use 22 channels for FRS and 28 main channels for GMRS. This Midland walkie talkie also comes with 142 privacy codes, thus giving you incredible control during those moments when you don’t want to have interference when chatting with others. You will also be pleased to find that this radio is capable of giving live weather alerts and information updates from the NOAA weather channel ahead of time to report on severe weather conditions. It also has an SOS siren, which is a food point for safety. On the battery life, you can use the rechargeable battery (packs) for slightly over ten hours a day or higher. It also comes with headsets like most radios do, so you can communicate and talk easily using it.
Learn more about this model in our in-depth review: https://www.ratedradardetector.org/radio/two-way/midland-gxt1000vp4-review/.
- Handy, compact size, affordable price, and sturdy radio
- Has a long range of up to 36 miles
- It is waterproof, thus ideal for outdoor and marine use
- Comes with over 20 FRS and GMRS channels
- Has NOAA weather alerts and channels
- Includes headsets, A/C and car charger
- SOS siren for safety
- Good battery life
- Do not have direct messaging options or group modes.
3. Cobra ACXT545 FRS / GMRS Radio
Cobra Electronics is another household communication brand whose radios and other gadgets you can trust. The company will be remembered as the very first creator of the world’s CB radio over five decades ago. This is just a subtle reminder about their legacy in the industry, as well as the quality of the radios they offer. The Cobra ACXT545 has been built to last and guarantees very stable performance under varying circumstances, even outside for days.
With a long range of 30 miles in open spaces (without obstructions) and a range of 10 miles in closed places like towns, it is ideal for most normal applications, and you will also not be disappointed should you venture outside with it. If you like to go outdoors on your free time, this radio can cover decent range. It has a total of 22 band channels, and when these are combined with the 124 privacy codes it comes with, you can get up to 2662 channel combination, thus allowing for incredible control over communicating operation. This is great compared to other radios since you can talk on more channels. The other notable features and functionalities of the radio pack include integration with the NOAA radio receiver for live NOAA weather alerts and updates, and LED for use in the evening time or dark conditions. It also has rubberized grips for a good hold. Plus, it’s offered in a very good price.
- Affordable FRS GMRS two-way radio with great performance
- Has a range of up to 30 miles
- Can give a channel combination of up to 2662 channels
- Fitted with a vibrating alert as well as a voice-activated features
- Weather radio alerts
- Hands-free operation feature plus LED
- The range is not consistent and may vary
- It is not waterproof, hence, not ideal for use outdoors
4. Midland LXT600VP3
Here is another walkie talkie model from Midland that makes it to our list of top two-way radios, and this can only be because it is of great quality. The Midland LXT600VP3 boasts of a long range of 30 miles in openwide places, but this reduces to about ten miles of range in places with lots of obstruction such as in towns and cities. Nevertheless, this range is competitive compared to others.
This walkie talkie is water resistant, and this means that it is weatherproof and will survive the rain and water splashes during outdoor use, but you should never dunk it underwater since it may never survive when submerged in water. With a total of 22 channels on this Midland product, you get incredible channel combination and its integration with the NOAA weather channels guarantees that you will also have weather radio updates and weather alerts right from the radio. When fully-charged, the battery packs can give radio service that lasts for up to 12 hours a day of uninterrupted use.
- Lightweight, reliable and water resistant
- Affordable two-way radio
- Comes with a total of 22 GMRS band channels
- Has a long range of 30 miles
- With weather channels alert to warn you of severe weather during outdoor use
- Hands-free and features a belt clip
- The range varies depending on available obstructions
- Not 100% waterproof
Whether you have real or imagined use for radios, walkie talkies are fancy gadgets that can come handy for use in several situations, especially in places where there are no cell phone signals and you need to communicate urgently. Though their range is limited, radios are ideal for communicating between teams in sports events, camping sites, survival activities, hiking trails, factories, warehouses, and many other similar environments outdoors. But it is imperative for you to gear up and understand how they perform and how to search for a set that will best suit all your needs, especially with private emergency and weather alert. Hopefully, this guide gives you vital insights into what it takes to end up with the best two-way radio, and you are also free to use any of the reviewed radios above any time.
A walkie talkie (FRS & GMRS radios) is a fancy but essential gadget/product that is great to have for several applications. You were probably fascinated by a walkie-talkie when you were young in your home, and you secretly wished if you could own them.
While growing up, you see law enforcement officers use radios and you realize that you are still fascinated by them. Well, the truth is that two-way radios are not a preserve of anyone, and if you wish, you could easily get a pair that you can enjoy.
In as much as you may opt to have best two-way radios just for fun with your family and friends when you are around the house, there are certain instances when you genuinely need to use a two-way radio, or when its presence would be more convenient than even having a mobile phone. Think of campers or hikers exploring new ground and want to be in continual connection through sound, audio or voice messages. Radios are great use when you want to talk to another person even when you’re a few miles apart.
We all know that general mobile radio service (GMRS) may be unreliable and offer little service for radios in remote areas, but this would not be a problem for two-way radios since they rely on radio frequency (read more here). Also think about factory operators, farmers, and other group of people who may need to stay in constant touch during discharging their duties for days. This is just a subtle illustration of just how vital two-way radios are.
If you’re interested in owning a two-way radio, you will be surprised at the superfluity of best types and units in the market nowadays. If this is going to be your first interaction with these gadgets, then you’re likely to get confused, and without the right information, you may end up with a brand or a unit that may not suit your needs, whether it’s just for basic exchange of messages at home or getting weather conditions. Either, you won’t get one with the range you wanted, or you may purchase one with frequency you are not allowed to have.
It is important to remember that radio frequencies are controlled by the government, and depending on the two-way radio you want, you may have to apply for a license to be allowed to use certain frequencies.
This is why it is imperative to know how to handpick the radios the right way so that you get the convenience you had desired and also avoid having unnecessary run-ins with the government, especially during an emergency. To help you out, here is a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about two-way radios, plus our cherry-picked recommendations for the best brands and models.
Two-way radio basics
Before delving deep into what you should consider when buying the best of these radio types as well as the particular models worth considering, it is imperative that you first understand how these radios work so that when you consider your options, you will know exactly what you should be looking at. Read our article explaining two-way communication.
Unlike what you have believed, the basic operation of a two-way radio is very simple. The radios are designed to transmit and receive radio alerts on accurate channels, like FRS GMRS. FRS means Family Radio Service channels and GMRS means General Mobile Radio Service channels. It means that if you’re not within the designated channels, then your pair of handsets will be useless for communication.
Most best two-way radios work in nearly the same manner. They are powered by rechargeable batteries and this is normally located at the base of the unit. The buttons for sound volume control and setting, which doubles up as the on/off switch is normally found at the face of the unit and sometimes there are two of them. Then there is a transmission button used to operate the radio and start communication.
To communicate, a toggle is pressed and the user speaks into the microphone unit for the message or sound to be transmitted to any receiver in the area. When this toggle is pressed, the previously inactive receive button becomes active so that the user can listen to an incoming message.
Most of these two-way radios automatically scan and operate on multiple channels (FRS GMRS), though some are designated to operate on just a single frequency. When buying these radios, it is always good to have multiple channels, especially if you intend to have a team with different points of communication using the radios.
With multiple channels, it will be very easy for you to assign different frequencies to different users so that you have more control over it and so that you communicate only with the persons you wanted to talk to. In this manner, you will reduce instances of eavesdropping or interferences in setups where several radios are being used.
Factors to consider when choosing a two-way radio
As noted earlier, there is a plethora of companies and best models of two-way radios in the market today. There are even cheaper options great for beginners, such as the BaoFeng BF-F8HP, but you have to consider your primary reasons of getting one. When you’re out shopping for these radio categories, here is a brief look at some of the considerations you should be aware of to help you find a radio that will be most suitable for your needs before you buy one.
The maximum range of two-way radios is one of the most important features you should never overlook when making your selection of good radios, including the power of its antenna. While many two-way radios claim claim a range of 30 miles and above, many of them can give you a maximum of just 2 miles in areas with many obstructions. In most cases, the maximum range available for consumers using the PMR446 on 0.5W transmit power can be as long as 10 km or 6 mile radius. This range is really helpful for emergency cases where you want to gear up yourself with a handheld device that offers a perfect means to automatically scan signal for signal and have an important message to send, which include a call for help.
However, this range may only be realized in good conditions: you are at very high altitudes with no obstacles between radios’ transmission, plus the line of sight. Unless you’re using the radios between mountain tops, this is a channel range and line you are never going to get. Again, you’ll find 2 miles to be a more realistic range for practical use.
However, you still need to consider the range and pick on the ones with adequate range for the majority of those using it. If you want range that’s above the average, then you may be compelled to go for a powerful two-way radio with a good antenna power, which will not just be very expensive but may also require a license to operate.
That said, always consider the maximum range that a radio can offer.
The number of handsets
A two-way radio set must not only be restricted to two handsets and you should be aware that you can purchase a radio with multiple units or handsets if you will need such for a group. If you need the radio pack for hiking, survival adventure or sports, then a twin set may work if you are in a small size group.
However, if you are manning a warehouse and you want everyone connected and receiving alerts at all times, then you are going to consider two-way radios with more than just two sets or units in a pack or group. When it comes to the quantity of handsets, there is no right or wrong that you should consider, but it will depend on why you need the radio and how many you plan to use them.
The channels and privacy codes
Depending on the nature of the communications you will be having over the two-way radios, you want to be very sure that your privacy will not be compromised in any way. If you are certain that you only need the radio for general uses, such as camping, survival adventure or hiking, then you may consider the license free two-way radios that send or transmit on a fixed frequency. With most of these license-free radios, they have either 8 or 16 channels which are manually tuned to allow exchange of signals between the two. Again, if you don’t want to use the license-free two-way radios, be prepared to spend more on the more expensive ones.
In addition to the policy in channels, you also need to consider privacy codes of the radio. But you need to realize that the privacy codes are not designed so that the channel can’t be intercepted by anyone. The role of privacy codes is to make it easy to chat freely and quickly on a channel without getting interference from others. Having such code is normally ideal in places such as ski resorts where you are likely to find many other two-way radios and channels being used.
The battery type and battery life
Some two-way radios are fitted with the usual alkaline batteries (AA batteries or AAA batteries) for power supply (in watts) while others come with rechargeable batteries in the pack, complete with a charging dock added to it. Your choice of the radio should thus factor in the battery life, watt usage and the circumstances under which you will be using the radio powered by batteries in a day.
For example, if you need to use the radio for hiking, survival adventure or in places where you may not have access to a power supply, then a radio with the regular battery (usually AAA batteries) would be the most ideal to gear up with your adventure. However, for plant or factory operations or if you intend to use the radio in environments where you can access power, then going for a rechargeable battery pack will be the most appropriate option for longer and higher capacity battery. The batteries are usually charged through a base charger that comes with the pack.
The weight of the radio
For most applications and mode, you wouldn’t want to go for a heavy two-way radio. Instead, pick a light one. If you are going for a rugged hike or camping, you know how heavy weight two-way radios can cause you many inconveniences. Therefore, check on the weight so you can proceed with your applications without hindrances. If, however, you will not be moving around with the radio, or it will stay indoors or be used in stationary places, then the weight will not be a problem, and you will be free to pick not only the light ones but even the bulky ones.
User reviews and rating
Finally, you keep in mind to check out the reviews and rating submitted by past buyers before settling on a two-way radio. The best two way radio will have high customer ratings, so don’t always be enticed to get the new models and features. Looking at reviews is easy with online shops like Amazon, with Amazon buyers often leaving their evaluation of their purchased products. Since you haven’t tried the radios yet, the only way for you to know if they are worthy for purchasing is to delve into the reviews submitted by past buyers so that you have a glimpse of the kind of gadget that you will receive. Some buyers even weigh in on other features like gps capability with multi-use models and option that provide extremely advanced technology in terms of gps coverage, perfect and clear audio for voice exchange, large mile coverage and radio service. It is highly recommended that you stick with the base units that have very impressive reviews and don’t bother with those that have poor rating.
More things to consider
Aside from those mentioned above, there are other things, plus extra features and mode you should look for in one of the top and best walkie talkies you should choose to buy. You can also check our review of CB VS Ham radios.
- Keypad lock – A lock is greatly helpful when there is high possibility of accidentally pressing the keypad while on a call.
- VHF – A walkie talkie that’s a VHF type features an additional feature of being able to quickly contact VHF. It allows users to call and talk to other devices with the same VHF signal.
- VOX – Vox is a program that offers ability to activate using a user’s voice. Vox makes contact process easier and would earn less effort and time through hands-free operation
- Flashlight – Some new and high-end multi-use business walkie talkies and two-way radios have a flashlight feature to help with rugged outdoor use.